From April 8-11, 2003, U.S. armed forces rolled through Baghdad, Iraq, meeting only sporadic resistance. The looting began before the fighting ended. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's palaces and the houses of his cronies were only the beginning. Hospitals, schools, university buildings, private offices, and businesses were all targeted by looters. The Iraq Museum, the national museum of antiquities in Baghdad and the most complete collection of Near Eastern artifacts in the world, wasn't spared. Over the course of two days, the Iraq Museum was systematically pillaged and vandalized. Waves of looters stripped the museum's 120 offices to the walls, taking computers, furniture, office supplies; smashing replicas and personal items; and destroying everything they didn't take. They pulled doors off their hinges, ripped down wallpaper, and smashed holes in walls. All over the offices and into the galleries they scattered files, papers, photos, and records which catalogued the museum's holdings. More importantly, of course, the collections themselves were ransacked. Since the staff had removed all but the heaviest artifacts from the twenty-eight public galleries of the museum, the first waves of looters found only large items. While gunfire was audible in the background, they overturned statues, took what pieces they could carry, and left others lying broken on the floor. They shattered pottery and scattered the fragments, crushing shards to dust underfoot. Some came prepared, using trucks and other vehicles to haul away items too heavy to carry. Some treasures hidden in vaults escaped the pillage only for a short time. Groups of looters returned later, broke through a bricked-up door, and entered the vaults below the museum, where more of the collections were stored. In these dark recesses, looters grabbed anything that looked valuable, broke open sealed containers, and swept objects from shelves onto the floor, creating paths of destruction as they walked over the ruins of their own heritage.